Georgia Power's Ash Pond Closure Methods Focus on Protecting Georgia's Water Quality
Tuesday, August 29th, 2017
Georgia Power announced that efforts to dewater its ash ponds are well underway, marking the next step in the safe and permanent closure of 29 ash ponds at 11 active and retired power generation sites across the state. The company's comprehensive and customized dewatering process treats the water removed from the ash ponds to ensure that it meets the requirements of each plant's wastewater discharge permits approved by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and is protective of applicable water quality standards.
"As we progress through our ash pond closures, protecting water quality in our state's waterways is as important to us as it is to our customers," said Aaron Mitchell, general manager of Environmental Affairs for Georgia Power. "Our ash pond closure and dewatering plans are in compliance with all environmental regulations. In addition, we have invested in appropriate water treatment systems for each location to ensure that our dewatering process is protective of Georgia's lakes and rivers."
Georgia Power's dewatering process for each site will follow a series of clearly defined steps:
Before any ash pond is dewatered, the company provides advance notice and submits an "ash pond dewatering plan" to Georgia EPD for its approval. The plan describes the dewatering process, water treatment controls and monitoring practices that will be implemented to protect water quality at that site. Once approved by Georgia EPD, this plan is posted to Georgia Power's website.
Once the Georgia EPD approves the dewatering plan and before dewatering activities begin, Georgia Power will again provide advance notice to Georgia EPD of its intent to begin dewatering and implement the requirements of the approved dewatering plan. As part of the approved dewatering plan, ash pond water goes through a treatment system operated by a qualified independent wastewater contractor. The treatment steps may include pH adjustment, clarification, filtration and more, before being discharged. Click here to view a detailed diagram illustrating a typical wastewater treatment system being employed by Georgia Power.
Monitoring and quality control is the final step and in place at every site. Independent contractors sample and independent accredited laboratories analyze both the discharged water from the pond, as well as water samples from the receiving lake or river, to document that treatment steps are effective and that water quality is being protected. These results are provided to Georgia EPD and posted to Georgia Power's website.
Ash Pond Closure Progress
As part of its efforts to permanently close its ash ponds, Georgia Power is removing all coal ash from 17 ash ponds located adjacent to lakes or rivers and using advanced engineering methods and technologies to close the remaining 12 ash ponds in place. The company is on track to cease operations of all its ash ponds, and complete the ongoing construction work needed to accommodate dry handling of ash at its coal-fired generation facilities, in 2019. Three ash ponds at Plants Kraft, Branch and McDonough have been completely excavated and construction activities are in progress at 8 other ash ponds.
In addition to protecting surface waters such as lakes and rivers through comprehensive and customized dewatering processes, the company is also actively monitoring groundwater quality at its facilities. Georgia Power's groundwater monitoring program includes the following elements:
Georgia Power has installed approximately 500 groundwater monitoring wells around its 29 ash ponds, as well as onsite landfills, to test groundwater conditions at each plant. These wells will continue to be monitored around Georgia Power's ponds and landfills even after they are permanently closed.
Groundwater monitoring is being conducted in compliance with federal and state laws and regulations. Samples are collected by independent third party contractors and analyzed by accredited independent laboratories for 20 substances.
Groundwater monitoring results are provided to the Georgia EPD and posted to Georgia Power's website.
The company has collected results from five of eight rounds of groundwater testing conducted at its first phase of plants through March 2017. Testing results for this time period have been posted on Georgia Power's website and will be reported to Georgia EPD. The company expects to complete all eight rounds of background monitoring for its first phase of plants in October 2017. A complete report providing a full analysis and data interpretation of these results will be provided to Georgia EPD and posted to Georgia Power's website in January 2018.
Georgia Power delivers clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy through a diverse generation mix, which includes renewable energy, such as wind and solar, along with natural gas, nuclear and coal-fired generation. Over the last five years, Georgia Power has safely retired or fuel-switched approximately 4,000 MW of coal and oil-fired generation and the company's coal-fired generation capacity is nearly half of what it was in 2005. Approximately 50 percent of the coal ash Georgia Power produces today is recycled for various uses such as Portland cement, concrete, and cinder blocks.